TESL Niagara Keynote
English is Stupid, Students are Not. I’ve heard lots of interesting keynotes on industry trends and theoretical notions about ESL but this keynote wasn’t one of those. This was a down and dirty practical lesson for teachers on how to teach any student to speak English quickly and confidently using a business card (with the Thompson Vowel Chart on the back), an elastic band and the most basic information any language student learns in any learned language – name, alphabet and colors.
If a system is true it then is true at every level You don’t need a Ph.D. in linguistics to learn how to speak English (grammar and linguistics actually impede language learning but that is another topic for another day).
I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent today with a lovely group of dedicated, open-minded ESL professionals sharing a simple method of teaching pronunciation. Over 1,600 people have since seen the PowerPoint
I have stayed in touch with many of the wonderful teachers I met at the TESL Niagara conference which is one of my favorite parts about being a keynote speaker.
Until next time,
TLC at the Top of the World
We support learning all over the world. Our wonderful intern Alexander became involved in a project to teach skiing, English and resort management to Indian people in the Himalayas so they could generate income from their own gorgeous mountain resources. We sponsored the project and they sent us this. The project was a huge success.
Please find attached photos from the Zanskar Ski Project, showing the Thompson Language Center logo at 4200m in the Indian Himalaya.
We had a great time taking these photos! This was the first time that the boys had ever ridden the gondola to the top of the mountain. They were full of wonder as the incredible view opened up to us, and their skiing on the way down was exemplary, despite the fact that it was a much steeper gradient than they were used to. As we took the photos we all joined Urgain, the boys’ teacher, in shouting the traditional Ladakhi phrase thanking the mountain for allowing us safe passage, and thanking you for helping this dream to become reality.
The boys were the only youngsters to ski from the top of the gondola all season, which is a huge credit to them.
Overall, the trip was a great success for all involved. The boys advanced in leaps and bounds in skiing, mountain safety knowledge, and communicative English. Laughter was never far away, and we also made some great connections with the Tourism Department and Winter Games Organization, which could potentially lead to more recognition of the importance of skiing for the youth of this region.
Thanks again for your involvement.
Heather, Cara, and the team from Zanskar.
We have newly located to the Niagara region of Ontario. If you would like to intern with Thompson Language Center, please let me know firstname.lastname@example.org
Until next time,
Warm Fuzzy Social Media Story
Last year our publisher printed 1,000 extra copies of English is Stupid, Students are Not for no charge. We decided to give those free copies to schools around the world who couldn’t afford them and I posted on LinkedIn for the names of such schools. Although we were successful sending books to a dozen schools in impoverished countries, shipping was a big issue. Here is the story of a clever woman from the Nigerian consulate in New York City and how she got 300 books to schools in her country.
She saw the post on LinkedIn and told her boss about the book offer. His term in the USA was over and he offered to ship the books to Nigeria in his container if we could get them to New York. My husband packed 30 boxes of books in his truck and delivered them to the diplomat in NY. We never heard another thing until last week when I got this email from a teacher wanting the man’s name for more books:
My name is I_ma U__kwu a Nigerian from one of the Senior Secondary Schools in Abuja Government Secondary School Karu. A Nigerian who was posted, lived and worked in the States but recently returned to the country around end of 2013 came to the above school and arose our interest by giving us English is Stupid, Students are Not. The book is inspiring. We appreciate it so much as the students are in dire need of every learning material they can lay their hands on. Most of these students are from abject poor homes with or without parents as the case may be. Likewise, some are maids whose guardians care little or nothing for them.
Another problem has to do with the student population. We are heavily over-populated. We are about two thousand five hundred students in my school and perhaps more. l may suggest such books could be kept in the school library where each child could go for reference purposes while some could be given to needy students.
Thanks for your concern. Wishing you well.
Needless to say our NY contact was as good as his word and if he is out of books I will be sending much, much more to this school.
Social Media works.
Until next time,
TESOL USA Adventure in Portland, Oregon
I am fast approaching my ‘golden years’ and learning to make the most out of every opportunity. I had the opportunity to present my app Teacher Judy’s Sound Dictionary at TESOL in Portland, Oregon in 2014 and Rick came with me.
We rented a car and immediately following my presentation we jumped in the car and headed down the gorgeous Oregon coast. We saw sea lions in Newport harbor, stayed in a Treehouse Treesort and drove covered wagons at the Applegate Trail Interactive Center. What I didn’t expect was the ESL contacts I’d meet in the oddest places.
Shannon Higgins was behind us at the wagon trail exhibit and she has an orphanage at the foot of Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. We chatted about teaching her 60 children English and I gave her copies of English is Stupid, Students are Not and the Grass is Black Sound Dictionary. Shannon immediately saw the value of teaching the children pronunciation using colors and we exchanged cards. I hope to visit Shannon, her orphanage and go on safari in Tanzania in 2015!
On the plane home from Portland I sat beside a successful small businessman whose daughter teaches ESL in Hong Kong. He was very interested in my programs and in turn provided a wealth of information on how to ‘get the word out’ to people who need to speak English quickly and confidently. It was another random, fortuitous encounter.
The best contacts I made on my trip to TESOL were nowhere near the convention!
Until next time,
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly – TESOL 2014
When my children experienced special days in their lives I’d always ask them what they liked best and what they didn’t like about the events. I asked myself the same questions after participating at TESOL.
What I liked was the buzz. It started on the airplane flying into Portland – so many passengers were going to the TESOL conference. There were teachers from many different countries and the venue was vast. Truth be told, what I liked best was the weather. We left Canada at -18 and a record cold winter to arrive on the west coast with warm temperatures, spring flowers and green grass.
What I didn’t like was the same old, same old programming and the staggering expense. ELT For The Next Generation was an empty slogan. Teaching grammar communicatively and linguistics with IPA has been flogged to death. There was a lot of icing on mud pies passed off as progress. There is no good way to teach the wrong material. There were cut-rate TESL certification programs offered that were cheaper but not better. Exhibit tables cost $2,000 for 3 days. The old boy publishing mafia, the giants who have capitalized on/exploited ESL/EFL for decades, were over-represented in the scant exhibit hall. On top of flight and hotel I paid $280 to get into the conference to be a presenter! Cash grab.
Several speakers cancelled without notice, conversely many people couldn’t get into the presentations they wanted. The plenary speaker got 1/3 of the way through his keynote and realized he was out of time. He flipped past his remaining slides and ended with an ominous prediction about demographics, technology and politics spelling the end of ESL teaching as a viable career. I thought he was right but he was so unprofessional I wasn’t sure anyone was listening.
All in all it was a hollow experience. As one of the biggest (if not the biggest) ESL/EFL conferences of its kind in the world TESOL could be taking much more a of a leadership role. I respect that it takes a tremendous amount of organization to put on an event like this. I’m glad I went but I wouldn’t go again. I understand completely how webinars and virtual conferences are replacing these mega face to face venues because everyone gets to see the presentations that interest them at a a fraction of the cost.
I went for a great roadtrip around the beautiful state of Oregon and that was the very best part of the experience.
Until next time,